Ruling Passion Online - Alyxandra Harvey

PROLOGUE

Lucy

Friday, early evening

Normally I wouldn’t have been caught dead at a field party.

If you’ll pardon the pun.

This was a supreme sacrifice on my part for my best friend, Solange, who was having a really bad day, which was about to turn into a really bad week. Her sixteenth birthday was coming up, and we weren’t talking a new car and a pink dress for her sweet sixteen. Not in her family.

This wasn’t much better though.

She was standing in the middle of a field, trying to drink cheap wine and pretend she didn’t want to be anywhere but here. The music was passable but that was about all it had to recommend it. The cars were parked in a wide circle, the sun setting behind the trees with all the colors of a blood orange pulled into pieces. Practically my entire high school was here; there wasn’t much else to do on one of the last weekends before school started. People danced and flirted in a sea of baseball caps and faded denim. Someone burped loudly.

“This was such a bad idea,” I muttered.

Solange smiled softly, abandoning her plastic cup on the hood of someone’s rusted truck.

“It was a nice thought.”

“It was stupid,” I admitted. She just looked so sad lately, I’d hoped a complete change of pace might distract her from all that worrying. Instead it made me want to bare my pitifully human teeth at the rowdies. Someone’s shoe nudged my heel, and when I looked back at it, I was greeted with way too much information about the mating habits of my fellow students. I kicked hard at the boot.

“No one needs to see that,” I said, turning away quickly before more clothing came off. The couple giggled and went deeper into the corn. I stared at Solange. “What the hell was I thinking?”

She half grinned.

“It is rather unlike you.”

Darren, from my math class last year, tripped over his own feet and sprawled in the dirt in front of us before I could answer. His grin was sloppy. He was nice enough usually; in fact, he was the reason I hadn’t entirely flunked out of math. But he was drunk and desperate to fit in.

“Hi, Lucy.” Apparently beer made him lisp. My name came out as “Loothee”—which was marginally better than my real name, which was Lucky. I had those kind of parents, but I’d made everyone at school call me Lucy since the first day of first grade.

“Hi, Darren.”

He blinked at Solange. Even in jeans and a tank top she looked dramatic. It was all that pale skin and those pale eyes. Her black bangs were choppy because she trimmed them herself. The rest was long and hung past her shoulders. Mine was plain old brown and cut in a wedged bob to my chin. My glasses were retro—dark rimmed and vaguely cat’s-eye shaped. I didn’t need them to see the way Darren was drooling over Solange. All guys drooled over her. She was beautiful, end of discussion.

“Who’s your friend? She’s hot.”

“You’ve met her before.” Solange was homeschooled, but I dragged her around when I could. “Sober up, Darren. This isn’t a good look for you.”

“ ’Kay.” He spat grass out of his mouth.

I slung my arm through hers. “Let’s get out of here. The sun’s starting to set anyway, and maybe we can salvage the rest of the night.”

The wind was soft through the corn, rustling the stalks as we wandered away. The stars were starting to peek out, like animal eyes in the dark. We could still hear the music and the occasional shout of laughter. Twilight was starting to settle like a soft blue veil. We’d walked from my house, which was a half hour away. We’d probably waited too long. We picked up our pace.

And then Solange paused.

“What?” I froze beside her, my shoulders tensing until I was practically wearing them as earmuffs. I was all too aware of what could be out there. I should never have suggested this. I’d just put her into even more danger. I was an idiot.

She held up her hand, her eyes so pale suddenly that they were nearly colorless, a ring of ice around a black lake. And because I was scared, I scowled into the gathering shadows around us. Mom always said bravado was a karmic debt I had to work through. She was basically saying I’d been mouthy and obnoxious for several lifetimes now. But somehow I didn’t think this particular situation called for a round